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Insurance market faces shift in power

Chicago Tribune, November 17, 2009

As Illinois' insurance director, Michael McRaith has a conflicting job: His office is charged with protecting Illinois consumers in their insurance transactions, while making sure their premiums are set high enough to keep the reserves of health plans well-funded. The Illinois Department of Insurance helps to oversee a healthcare system that has allowed insurance companies to essentially dictate how much consumers are charged and what kind of benefits they get. But that would change under healthcare bills making their way through Congress. McRaith, along with other state insurance directors, would be given unprecedented powers in helping to decide the benefits and cost of health plans for the proposed government-regulated insurance exchange. Under the bill passed by the House this month, insurance policies largely geared to those without coverage would be offered on an exchange, or insurance marketplace, to help consumers purchase health plans, many using newly created federal subsidies.